Tag Archives: grace

Confident in God

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Hebrews 4:16, NIV*

We’re encouraged to approach God’s very throne. With confidence.

In what circumstances? When we’re at the peak of our success and have it all together?

No. Believers in Christ are to come to the All-Powerful Ruler of all creation when we most need grace and mercy.

Asking for help from others is hard for many of us, in part because we feel diminished if we have to admit weakness, lack or other needs. We can feel as if this puts the other person in a position of power over us, and we may fear their response – or their future demands of payback.

When we truly trust the other person it’s much easier. We may still fear they’ll be disappointed in us, hurt, or angry over what we reveal, especially when it’s the sort of issue that has us requiring grace and mercy.

I don’t know about you, but when I’m feeling in need of grace and mercy it’s because I’ve blown it. Or I’m feeling inadequate or in some other way unworthy. I’m the very opposite of confident.

Yet we’re to come to God with confidence, at our lowest point. Not with a brash, in-your-face boldness that thinks He’s somehow obligated to us.

A confidence based on God’s character and on His promises. They do obligate Him to receive us, but only because He committed to do so because of His goodness and Jesus’ finished work on the Cross. It has nothing to do with our merit.

Because we know Who He is, we know we’ll find the mercy and grace we need. Thinking in these terms, the confidence we express is faith. We’re choosing to believe Him and to stake our needs on Him.

This reminds me of James 1:5-6, which encourages us to ask God for wisdom and warns that, when we ask, we need to believe He will answer. The attached warning is that unbelief will hinder our prayer. (The good news is, we can always pray “Lord, help my unbelief.” Mark 9:24)

God our King, awesome in majesty and holiness, we are perpetually in need of Your grace and mercy. Thank You for making a way for us to receive what we could never earn or supply on our own. Even faith is a gift from You, so please give us the faith – the confidence in You – that will bring us into Your presence to receive what You long to give. Thank You for loving us enough for this.

I loved this song from the first time I heard it: “Come as You Are,” by Crowder. At first it sounds like an invitation to those who haven’t yet surrendered to Jesus, but I think it applies to Christians, too, any time we’re at that place of needing grace and mercy.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Want More Grace and Peace? Grow.

May God give you more and more grace and peace as you grow in your knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord.
2 Peter 1:2, NLT*

Coming to Jesus is just the beginning – the rebirth. We’re not to remain as spiritual babies, but to thrive and grow up into a vibrant Christian life.

Peter tells us to grow in our knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. How do we learn more about the power and character of our God and Saviour?

  • by reading the Bible
  • through experience, as we trust Him and live for Him
  • through other Christians, as we spend time with them in prayer and in working for the Kingdom
  • in prayer, and in quiet times with God

Peter says coming to know God means receiving “everything we need for living a godly life (verse 3)” and that we need to grow by responding to His promises (verse 5). Verses 5-7 give detailed advice on what to cultivate in our lives by the Spirit’s help.

Growing will make us “productive and useful (verse 8)”. It’ll keep us from falling away. We need to remember what we’ve been taught about Jesus from His word – and to rely on it. To base our lives on it.

The better we know our God, the more we can rely on Him. The easier it is to trust and obey Him. And the more others will see and respond to the difference He makes in our lives.

God our Father, thank You for drawing us to Yourself to be spiritually born again. Thank You for Your promises and for all that You’ve given us. Help us to receive and to respond, for our own sakes and for the sake of Your Kingdom.

Keith Green‘s song, “Draw Me,” is a great prayer to bring us deeper into the Lord’s presence.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Signpost Life

I myself am God, your God: Keep my statutes and live by my laws. Keep my Sabbaths as holy rest days, signposts between me and you, signaling that I am God, your God.
Ezekiel 20:19-20, MSG*

As Christians, we live under grace. It’s not about trying to earn our salvation or to appease God so He won’t zap us.

But God is a holy God, and our behaviour matters to Him. We can please Him, or we can offend Him. With all He’s done to save us, isn’t the best response a life that honours and obeys Him? A life lived in loving trust?

That’s the kind of life that keeps us close to God instead of putting up spiritual barriers. And in a culture that has little use for God’s statutes, laws or Sabbaths, it’s a life that shows others that our God is different. He is good. He’s worth following.

Holy God, we could never earn Your approval, but Jesus does, and as believers we stand clothed in Him. Thank You. Please free us from any lingering doubt of Your acceptance, and give us hearts that long to please Your heart—in our words and in our actions. May others catch glimpses of Your character in our lives.

Here’s a song from Sidewalk Prophets challenging us to “Live Like That“.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Review: Christmas in Shades of Gray, by Tina Pinson

Christmas in Shades of Gray, by Tina PinsonChristmas in Shades of Gray, by Tina Pinson (Desert Breeze Publishing, 2013)

We meet David Pareman as a terminally ill man in hospital, bitter and alone. There’s something about his voice, though, that appeals. I bought the novel after reading the opening online. Listen to how he describes himself:

It’s Christmas time, but I’m not feeling altogether festive. Given the strands of tubing attached to me and all the off sounding carols played by the machines keeping track of my body rhythms, and the packages of blood and saline tied up neatly on stands, I could be the Christmas tree… I am a Christmas tree. A Charlie Brown special—weak and spindly. [Kindle locations 83 and 203]

Chemotherapy is poisoning David, and the morphine makes him hallucinate. Still, his mysterious visitor, Arion, seems like more than a figment of the medication. In Christmas Carol style, Arion whisks David out of the hospital bed and into scenes from his past: unflattering scenes that reveal David at his worst.

Tina Pinson is wise to introduce us to David in a way that builds sympathy, because he is not a likeable man. He has ruined many lives, and parts of his story are hard to read. He finds them hard to watch, here at the end of his life.

The search for something—anything—redeeming in David’s and his children’s lives brings only despair. Reading, I assumed that Arion’s insistence on a reason why God should answer David’s prayer for his children was to bring David to realize he can’t earn favour and needs to ask for grace.

Christmas in Shades of Gray is a satisfying tale. The ending is hopeful yet realistic, and there’s a twist I didn’t see coming. If David’s sordid life tempts you to stop reading, push through to the end. It’s worth it.

Tina Pinson’s website says that she “started writing in elementary school. (it was that or get in trouble for lying).” She’s the author of the Shadows (American Civil War) series plus 5 other novels including Christmas in Shades of Gray.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Prodigal, by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

The Prodigal, a novel by Brennan Manning and Greg GarrettThe Prodigal, by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett (Zondervan, 2013)

“America’s Pastor.” That’s what they call Jack Chisholm, founder and leader of Seattle’s Grace Cathedral. Jack is a high-profile preacher and an organizer of good works. He’s also human. When a lapse in judgment leads to sin and disgrace, his image shatters and his life falls apart.

Despite the name of his megachurch, Jack’s best-known phrase is “We have got to do better.” His focus on humanity’s shortcomings and our need to work harder for God’s approval comes from his father, a man Jack walked away from years ago without looking back.

A man who now comes to rescue Jack from the pit of misery he’s dug for himself.

With nowhere else to go, Jack goes home to small-town Texas, where everyone knows everything about everybody else. Some people will forgive him, some won’t. He needs to learn to live with himself, to reconcile with his family if they’ll have him, and to decide what to do with the rest of his life.

Churchless, is he still a pastor? Does he even still believe in God?

Jack learns about grace from the townspeople, especially from his much-changed father and from the local priest, Father Frank. I don’t know much about Brennan Manning, but Father Frank seems to be the voice of Brennan himself speaking to Jack’s pain. It’s not always an easy voice to hear, because it speaks truth and it challenges Jack with that truth.

My favourite Father Frank lines:

When we acknowledge that we are all beggars at the door of God’s mercy, God can make something beautiful out of us.

…broken and worthless as we are, we are nonetheless loved beyond all reckoning. (p. 48)

The Prodigal isn’t a preachy novel. Frank doesn’t dish out this kind of teaching very often, and only when Jack needs it. Jack, of course, disagrees.

It’s a novel for anyone who knows the bitterness of failure, men and women both. It’s a novel of hope—not for glitter and rainbows and happy endings, but for the strength to go on and to find our true selves in the ruins of what we’ve tried to be. It’s a novel that affirms the love of God the Father and the fundamental goodness that lives in most people’s hearts—a goodness that may need some digging to find.

The Prodigal is a heart-warming, soul-encouraging read. My one regret is that I’d like to have seen some closure between Jack and his former assistant, Danny. [Jack. Daniel. Does anyone but me find this funny, given that Jack tries to find the answer to his problems in a bottle?]

Brennan Manning, who died in 2013, was best known for his book, The Ragamuffin Gospel. Greg Garrett is the author and co-author of many books, both fiction and non-fiction. The Prodigal is available in paperback, electronic book and audio formats. I highly recommend it.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

Grace, Mercy and Peace

I am writing to Timothy, my true son in the faith.
May God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord give you grace, mercy, and peace.
1 Timothy 1:2, NLT*

Paul begins most of his letters with a variant of these words, before getting into the meat of what he has to say. I always thought it was an overall blessing, kind of a loving way to say “hello”.

What if it’s more than that? His letters are very specific in terms of teaching and instruction. He doesn’t seem the type to open with generic fluff.

Today I think this prayer for “grace, mercy and peace” is not only not a pleasantry, it’s a carefully-targeted prayer for Timothy’s needs.

The letter goes on to advise Timothy in his conduct and duties, but the “working out” won’t be effective without the inner working of the Holy Spirit in answer to Paul’s request here.

We often pray for detailed needs and results, and rightly so. But I take Paul’s prayer here as a reminder to ask for these essential gifts of God—grace, mercy, peace etc—as well. Often we don’t know how to pray, or we think we do but our ideas may not match God’s.

Paul reassures me that it’s not a cop-out to pray for these larger, intangible blessings that will work themselves out in lives and in situations according to God’s sovereign will and purposes. It may instead be the foundation for what comes next.

God who is the source of grace, mercy and peace, pour these gifts on us so that we can understand and obey the teaching of Your Word. Thank You for the reminder that what we do in our own strength won’t amount to much. We need Your touch, and You so readily give it when we remember to ask. Grant us Your blessing, we pray.

This week’s song is “The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” performed here by John Rutter and the Cambridge Singers.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Transplanted to Flourish

For [the godly] are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”
Psalm 92:13-15, NLT*

Transplanted trees… usually they come from the nursery (or forest) with their roots in a ball of dirt. Scrawny ones may be pulled out of poor soil with bare roots, or their roots may even need washing before being plunged into good ground.

It’s amazing that God would take humans in all our messiness, clean us and label us “godly,” and transplant us into His own house — into His presence. May we not stand there, roots clenched tight into the clot of dirt they came with. May we consciously poke our roots into the wide, deep, nourishing ground of God’s presence. May we flourish. May we thrive.

God of grace and mercy, what can we say but “Thank You”? Help us grow into all You’ve designed us to be, with our confidence fully rooted in You.

With the thought of flourishing in the courts of the Lord, here’s Kutless with “Better is One Day.” This is a new version to me, and I like what they’ve done with it.

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Turn Us Again

Turn us again to yourself, O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies.
Make your face shine down upon us.
Only then will we be saved.
Psalm 80:19, NLT*

I’m praying this for the Body of Christ in Canada and around the world. We’re in as bad a situation as Old Testament Israel as the psalmist describes them in Psalms 79-80, although the worst of our devastation is spiritual, not physical. Our enemies are unseen forces, not physical armies.

The result is the same, and, like theirs, it’s caused by our own rebellion, delusion and turning away. Some among us have chosen to “redefine” God according to our own thoughts. Some have been deceived. Some are standing firm, grieving for what we see.

Corporately, we’re a mess. Only God can rescue and restore us. Only God would want to.

Holy and righteous God, You rescued us once through the Cross, and called us out to be Your people. Individuals are shining for You but as a Body we’re infirm and ineffective. We’re not displaying Your glory—who You are—to the needy world around us. We are crumbling under attack instead of demonstrating Your power. For the sake of Your Name and because of Your mercy, turn us back to Yourself. Renew, restore and re-commission us in Your service.

It all comes back to how much we need God. Here’s Matt Maher with “Your Grace is Enough.”

*New Living Translation (NLT)Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.


Personal Holiness

You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
Leviticus 20:26, NIV*

God chose the people of Israel as a living example or sign to the rest of the world of what relationship with Him would look like. They didn’t do very well over the long haul because they weren’t very faithful.

I’m not sure our churches today are doing much better, and Christians have the Holy Spirit within us instead of depending on hearing Him speak through the occasional prophet.

We’re meant as a sign, and we forget that. We get so caught up in our needs and desires that we miss the bigger picture.

Personal holiness is important. Legalism and rigidity aren’t appropriate (certainly not attractive displays of the joy of belonging to the Lord) but we need to live in obedient trust in God. We need to “learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” (Matthew 11:28, MSG**)

We need to be good. Not because we must, but because in Jesus Christ—and only in Him—we can. And living in confident trust in Him even in the hard times shows others the truth about God. It can show us too.

Holy and perfect God, thank You for the privilege of belonging to You, and for the grace that washes us clean. We could never earn the right to be Your children, but You give it freely. Help us to be holy, by Your grace, as You are holy.

Here are The Imperials with “Not To Us, O Lord.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

**The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

The Goodness of the Lord

I remain confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
Psalm 27:13-14, NIV*

This verse gave me a lot of comfort during a hard time. I don’t know the translation a friend sent to me, but the wording for verse 13 is “I would have despaired if I had not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (It’s similar to the NASB translation of Psalm 27:13)

I clung to that promise, repeated it over and over, and although that crisis has passed the words are still on my fridge. Things were bad, and I needed help believing there would be good days ahead.

The verse has been going through my head again this week, in the form of a song by Carolyn Arends, “Land of the Living”. Just the chorus:

I would despair
If I did not believe
That I would see again
Your hand in the land of the living.

And I saw something deeper: the promise doesn’t say anything about what this goodness will look like. Doesn’t say the pain will go away, health or wealth be restored, wars and natural disasters cease.

What it says is that we will see the goodness of the Lord.

See the goodness of the Lord.

One of the points I took from Ann Voskamp’s amazing book, One Thousand Gifts, is that sometimes God’s goodness—the grace He gives us—is hard to recognize. It comes disguised as what we call more bad news or hard times.

She also points the way to see it: “praise precedes the miracle”. As we pray, praising God for who He is, asserting our confidence in Him, He helps us recognize His hand even in the hard experiences.

If the circumstances don’t change, or while we’re waiting for the change, don’t we need to recognize—to see—the goodness of the Lord present with us? Don’t we need His goodness to get us through? That’s grace.

Father God, Giver of all good gifts, open our eyes and our spirits to see Your goodness here with us, in the land of the living. We will still pray in trust that You will deliver us from our hard places and heal our hurts, but in the here and the now, help us praise You. Praise You with no strings attached: not if You work things out a certain way, but because of who You are. And we will remember that the praise does precede the miracle, whatever that miracle will turn out to be.


I couldn’t find “Land of the Living” as an audio file, so here’s a video of my first favourite Carolyn Arends song: “Seize the Day.”

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.